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ChiefJoJo

Competing transit visions for the Triangle

Competing transit visions for the Triangle   33 members have voted

  1. 1. Which is the better plan? Why?

    • Enhanced TTA Plan
      31
    • BRT-guideway-based plan
      2

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21 posts in this topic

I decided that since the STAC is moving forward towards it's preferred choice, it was a good time to gauge the forum's choice. FYI, posted this same info in this post. The general transit topic, with tons of background info and discussion can be found beginning here.

Please vote on your choice and feel free to discuss why, but please limit your post to just that, and refrain from excessive or general transit discussions so we can keep this topic focused on the plans presented here.

So from what I've heard from STAC members, pending any final adjustments, these are basically the two choices they have come down to for the Triangle Regional Transit Vision. The tenative plan is to reach consensus and present it's final plan to the Durham/Chapel Hill Carrboro (DCHC) and Capital Area (CAMPO) Metropolitan Planning Organizations in Jan or Feb.

1. What I'm calling the "Enhanced TTA Plan." Mix of DMU ("linchpin"* corridor), LRT or BRT for Chapel-Hill to Durham, long distance intercity commuter rail (on freight tracks), streetcar or bus circulators, enhanced bus (so-called "que jumpers" given signal priority at selected intersections), express bus (in mixed traffic), and local bus service. This represents the basic underpinnings of what TTA had planned previously, that rapid transit would be built in phases for the primary corridors, beginning with TTA Phase I, between Raleigh and Durham. The major differences, or enhancements as I see it, would be adding intercity CR on the NCRR corridor between Burlington and Goldsboro, the local circulators, and enhance buses on high priority bus corridors. Other major highways, I-40 & 540, would have a mix of tolls, and HOT lanes.

The potential downside of this plan is it would require bus transfers on either end from suburban areas, and it does not have the flexibility of the a bus-based system. The primary adantages of this plan would be it's ability to move forward fairly quickly with rapid transit. The project is designed, land is aquired, and the project is essentially ready to go, pending sufficient funding ($860M in '07 dollars). It's likley that a DMU-rail-based option would have greater potential to generate urban TODs around multiple stations along the line, as rail has proven this many times over in North America.

Estimated capital cost of this plan in 2007 dollars is $4.8-6.4B.

2699956380098570895S600x600Q85.jpg

2. What I'll label the "BRT-Guideway-based Plan." This alternative plan is based primarily on curb-guided bus-rapid transit on the "linchpin corridor." The idea is that buses would be used and as funds allowed, a fixed bus guideway could be implemented incrementally over time, and stations (TODs?) would be built at certain locations along that line. The plan would be supplemented by the other plan components mentioned above: basic long-distance CR, circulators, enhanced bus, express bus, and local bus service. The primary difference, as I see it, is that the bus-based guideway system would replace the TTA DMU line as the "linchpin" corridor.

The potential downsides for this option are the required environmental studies and designs that would be required (~10 years) and the uncertainty of a busway's potential impact in generating urban TODs around stations. There are few--if any--examples of busways that have proven to attract TODs in the US. One advantage this plan has is it's flexibility to allow buses to serve various routes in suburban areas and then transition to and from the guideway, which would eliminate the need to transfer and provide seamless service to a large area. For this reason, some have argued that a bus-based sytem would have a better chance at reaching choice riders in some of the suburban areas of the Triangle.

Estimated capital cost of this plan in 2007 dollars is $5.0-6.8B.

20071107-Transit.jpg

*linchpin corridor is the corridor that would connect the Raleigh and Durham/Chapel Hill ends of the region. The route & technology of this corridor has major influences the transit choices on either end. For that reason, it has been the major focus of recent STAC discussions.

Generalized costs of various technologies on a per mile basis (in $millions) are:

Priority bus....................0.3-0.4

Turnpike bus..................3.0-4.0

Commuter Rail...............10.2-13.8

HOT Lane Bus................14.0-19.0

Electrified "trolleybus"....14.9-20.1

Diesel Multiple Unit Rail...25-33.8

BRT-curb-guideway.........26.4-35.7

Streetcar........................26.4-35.7

Light Rail........................38-51.4

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Enhanced TTA, which should have been The TTA Plan all along!

BRT's "it can go off the rails into normal street traffic" seems like a good idea in theory. But around here, where are these buses going to go to make them more attractive than a rail/bus hybrid? The buses we have only attracts ridership in a few corridors -- adding "super buses" (that can get stuck in traffic) to the mix isn't much differnt than TTA's current express/local system in place now.

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Where's the choice for "Don't waste money on trains very few people are going to ride and build more roads"?

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Where's the choice for "Don't waste money on trains very few people are going to ride and build more roads"?

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Right on waynehead. More roads = more sprawl. Luckily leaders in Wake and Durham counties are starting to see the need for better transportation in the Triangle.

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If those are going to be the only two choices we realistically have, I go with #1. I wish there was some serious discussion for something more visionary, something that isn't merely a copy of what has been done already in other cities.

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I don't think that's an option b/c most people here, on this website about urban planning, don't see more roads as a viable long term alternative, at least not as the only solution. The triangle needs more roads, sure, but it also needs a well planned mass transit system to encourage/respond to density.

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So is transit to be used as a means of social engineering or congestion relief?

Because it's awful elitist to suggest that a group (aka Central Planners) know best how other people should live and what the level of density they should live in.

And it's awfully expensive to spend hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, to run trains that will, at best estimates, take 3% of the cars off the road and thus make virtually no difference in car traffic levels.

Or is transit just Raleigh/Triangle penis envy of "metropolitan cities" like Charlotte or Portland who have cool trains to ride and we don't?

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I understand as well as anyone that using mass transit is typically a last resort for most red-blooded americans. we want to drive our cars if we can. but in cities like charlotte, portland, and in the triangle development is coming, and so is density. this is about as sure as the sun rising tomorrow. i also understand that taxpayers don't want to waste money on something that'll hardly be used. but in my humble opinion putting the infrastructure in place now is a much better long term solution than doing nothing. an advanced bus system or a light rail might not have incredibly high ridership when it's started. in fact, it's almost certain it won't. but having that system in place and readily available for 20, 30, 40 years down the line when the development does come and when the ridership will increase is important, which is why, IMHO, the triangle should get moving on this as quickly as possible.

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So is transit to be used as a means of social engineering or congestion relief?

Because it's awful elitist to suggest that a group (aka Central Planners) know best how other people should live and what the level of density they should live in.

And it's awfully expensive to spend hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, to run trains that will, at best estimates, take 3% of the cars off the road and thus make virtually no difference in car traffic levels.

Or is transit just Raleigh/Triangle penis envy of "metropolitan cities" like Charlotte or Portland who have cool trains to ride and we don't?

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So is transit to be used as a means of social engineering or congestion relief?

Because it's awful elitist to suggest that a group (aka Central Planners) know best how other people should live and what the level of density they should live in.

And it's awfully expensive to spend hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, to run trains that will, at best estimates, take 3% of the cars off the road and thus make virtually no difference in car traffic levels.

Or is transit just Raleigh/Triangle penis envy of "metropolitan cities" like Charlotte or Portland who have cool trains to ride and we don't?

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I am going to have to go with option #1 - but with the cavaet that in order for this plan to work, the cities and counties need to decide that the area is going to have 2 areas for large scale aggregations of businesses: RTP and Downtown Raleigh. The second plan seems as if it would work - and encourage - low numbers of passengers to far removed office parks dotting Wake and Durham counties. Option #1, from a land use perspective, would discourage Mr. Developer from deciding that he is going to build Office Sprawl Complex IX in Wendell, as perspective tenants would not want to be so far removed from mass transit and existing infrastructure.

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On option #2 I am surprised that there are much in the way of environmental studies. In the world of water and sewer, stuff being built in existing right of ways can sometimes get a categorical exclusion or at the least a FONSI is issued and no detailed environmental impact statement is needed. With this option being on existing roads (I assume) I would think implementation should be quick. Also, I love how light rail encourages TOD all on its own, but I am hoping that the comp plan update will pick spots for denser development by way of waiving of parking minimums and setback changes, and refusal to approve projects with parking in front of the building etc....if the comp plan does this, then a BRT option can be easily woven throughout the City where it needs to go. After seeing the light rail system in Denver last weekend even a nice Raleigh only light rail seems pretty easy to accomplish, and it does not seem too different in functionality. I am thinking option #1 with a map that reflects rail from city to city with only major stops and then a BRT all over within cities up and down major roads like Glenwood and Capital.

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The Bus Guideway option 2 is not bus in mixed traffic. It is a separate guideway, almost like a train track. Kinda super-duper BRT.

That said, I'm still voting for the rail option. The backbone project has already been completely designed and the land acquired to build it. It is simply not an option to replace the rail tracks with busways. There are a couple of commission members that do prefer the busway though.

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Some more notes:

Updated cost numbers received today at the STAC:

Option 1 (TTA) is a range from $4.8-6.4 Billion

Option 2 (BRT) is a range from $5.0-6.8 Billion

These figures are 2007 dollars and include per mile costs for various technologies, as posted on the first page of this topic.

Also, the staff altered the plans to change the corridor from Carolina North to Hillsborough from CR to express bus service due the rural development buffer in that portion of Orange County (the figure I posted shows CR in blue, incorrectly). The argument is 'why do rail if there is no chance at affecting potential TOD?' Good reasoning, although some members did not agree.

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...After seeing the light rail system in Denver last weekend even a nice Raleigh only light rail seems pretty easy to accomplish, and it does not seem too different in functionality...

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Some updated maps from the STAC that I scanned... these are essentially "prettier" versions of the same maps posted above.

2836839090098570895S600x600Q85.jpg

2402595100098570895S600x600Q85.jpg

This data is based on 2035 educated best-guess projections (emphasis on guess) for the region. It shows length of the corridor, projected total trips (incl. auto trips) taking place within the corridor, trip density, a best guess at ridership (*ASSUMPTION* of 2% of total), # projected "need" riders (low income and/or no car), homes, and jobs. Numbers in red show corridors that ranked high in a particular category.

2958634500098570895S600x600Q85.jpg

After looking at these numbers, some information begins to look clearer:

  • The corridors shown with the most red are probably the best candidates for rapid transit

  • The data tends to validate TTA's Regional Plan (Durham-Raleigh, Raleigh-NE Wake Co, Durham-Chapel Hill, etc) or some hybrid (throw in Raleigh to Apex and Durham to Apex via CR)

  • Both plans cover these higher-ranking corridors with some form of either DMU, CR, or BRT & others with enhanced or express bus

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The Bus Guideway option 2 is not bus in mixed traffic. It is a separate guideway, almost like a train track. Kinda super-duper BRT.

That said, I'm still voting for the rail option. The backbone project has already been completely designed and the land acquired to build it. It is simply not an option to replace the rail tracks with busways. There are a couple of commission members that do prefer the busway though.

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Where's the choice for "Don't waste money on trains very few people are going to ride and build more roads"?

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I went with #1 because a Durham-Raleigh commuter route (i.e., the backbone) with frequent service is a must if real mass transit is to get off the ground in the Triangle. If the entire train route from Burlington to Selma were to use the VRE model then the purpose for TTA expansion might as well be defeated. If anything, BRT should be considered for the US 70 corridor between Raleigh and Durham, the 15-501 corridor, and Carolina North-RDU and nowhere else.

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